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Tuesday, January 30, 2007


This may be perceived by some to be off my usual topics of theatre, books, movies, and music, but, you know what? It's my blog.

Handicapped parking spaces are not "I'm only going to be in there for a few minutes" spaces. They are also not "Gee, there are no other close spaces" spaces. They are definitely not "Well, until the snow gets cleared away, I guess it will be alright if I park here" spaces. They are specifically designated for drivers and passengers with mobility issues. If you're not one of these people, park further away and walk. It will be good for you. (You should consider parking a little further away from the food court even if there are closer spaces anyway, tubby.)
If you are driving in your grandmother's car, and she has a handicapped parking permit, you are more than welcome to park in a handicapped space . . . if your grandmother is with you, Skippy! Otherwise, put the placard in the glove box and leave the space for someone who needs it!

Those nifty big blue buttons outside of buildings that open the doors automatically are sure neat, aren't they? News flash! The stick figure on the button isn't sitting in a La-Z-Boy! Those automatic doors are electrical and mechanical. The more they get used, the more they get worn. The more they get worn, the sooner they break. Now imagine the person who really needs that button coming up and finding it broken, because 200 able-bodied people hit that button today, too lazy to reach out and pull the door open manually.

Is this really who we are as a society? Are we actually this selfish and self-absorbed? Do I need to start carrying my big stick again? I will, you know. (I like the "thump" sound it makes when it hits a hollow cranium.)

You want to keep wearing out the access doors and keep taking up handicapped spaces for your own selfish convenience? Fine. Just remember to keep looking over your shoulder . . .

Clear enough?

By the way, if I haven't mentioned it before, one of my conditions for recommending a show on my blog is that the theatre space must be wheelchair accessible for the audience, at least. I mean real access, not "well, they can sit here in the hallway and look in" or "we'll be happy to carry them down (or up) the stairs." If your theatre doesn't have feasible, dignified wheelchair access, I may come see your show, but I won't write about it.

My blog. My rules.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Deeper In The Woods

I had an opportunity last weekend to see a production of Metro State College of Denver's production of The Robber Bridegroom again. You may recall that it was among my favorite shows that I saw in 2006. (The title of this blog entry is also the title of one of the more haunting melodies in the show.) It was being re-staged in preparation for performance on a proscenium stage at this next weekend's RMTA Festivention in Gunnison, Colorado. As I understand it, the production has won an RMTA award, and part of their prize is the honor of performing at The Festivention.
I mention this, not because I expect anyone to travel to Gunnison to see this show (though I think it would be worth the trip), but to say, once again, how thoroughly I enjoyed this production. It was, without a doubt, the best musical I saw in 2006, and the best production of The Robber Bridegroom (one of my favorite musicals) that I have yet seen. (Courtney Capek's performance has cemented her in my mind as the consummate Rosamund.)
Now, I did not read a review of this show in the Rocky Mountain News or the Denver Post. I simply caught site of a poster as I was walking through the Auraria Campus after seeing a horrid independent film at the Tivoli.
I didn't pay $65 for a ticket. Or $35. Or even $20. If I recall correctly, I saw the show for around $10, and, as I said, it was one of the best shows I saw last year.
I encourage you, theatregoers, to seek out campus productions for your evening's entertainment. Young, hungry performers can frequently make for a lively or compelling evening's entertainment. Don't limit your theatre attending to just the big names around town. Often, they have too much overhead to take risks on lesser-known musicals or controversial plays. The academic world is somewhat insulated from the demands of box office receipts. Broaden your horizons, and don't be afraid to look "Deeper In The Woods."
And, fear not, dear readers. If you are reluctant to venture out alone, I will do some venturing first. You can look back here from time to time and see what I have to say about what you should see. (Metro's next show will be Once On This Island. Should be worth a look.)

Speaking of shows worth seeing:

PHAMALy's Our Town runs through February 4th.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

The Better to Hear You With, My Dear 1/23

Keb' Mo' - Keb' Mo'

I'm a big fan of Keb' Mo' and his upbeat, country blues sound. His self-titled debut from 1994 is probably not his best work nor should it be -- this was his debut album, as I said. Still, the ironic humor is there. ("Kindhearted Woman Blues") The laid-back Sunday morning feel is there. ("Victims of Comfort") And, of course, the innovative guitar-playing is there. (The whole album.) This may not be the best Keb' Mo' album out there, but it's still one of the better contemporary blues albums you can buy.

Actually, though, I've been primarily listening to the radio this last week. In particular, 99.5 FM KQMT (The Mountain) and 102.3 FM KCUV. Both of these radio stations offer a fine mix of contemporary and classic adult rock, local music, and some eclectic gems that are rarely heard over the airwaves. (And they're pretty stingy about commercials.)

Oh, and as long as you're surfing, check out this panda video.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Don't make me tell you again.

I heard, with my giant wolf ears, a bit of news that I find as disturbing as I do baffling.

Apparently, Thursday night's performance of Our Town garnered an audience of only 30 people. Can this be true? Is it possible that you have not heeded my recommendation that you must see this show?
Surely not. Surely a company as widely beloved in this city as PHAMALy wouldn't even require urging from me or anyone else to have full or near-full houses for every night of their limited, four-weekend run.
Regan Linton will most assuredly receive an Ovation nomination for her performance. (And if she doesn't, John Moore had better live in a brick house for his own sake.) Do you want to be one of the people who says, " I wish I'd seen that," or "I meant to catch that"?
This is Our Town, one of the finest and most definitive American plays ever written. I know you've seen mediocre productions of this play. So have I. This is not one of them. This is PHAMALy. Denver's PHAMALy. No other city on the planet has a PHAMALy.
Don't trust the Wolf? Fine. John Moore and I don't agree all that often, but we are undivided on Our Town. Read John's review. You like John Moore, don't you?
Okay, so we're agreed. People of Denver, inhabitants of the Front Range, embracers of Americana: make your reservations now. There are only three weekends left.
I don't want to hear about any more partially-filled houses.
Are we clear?

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

The Better to See You With, My Dear 1/16

I'm going to fit in a second movie review this week:

The Pursuit of Happyness (2006)

The plot: A struggling salesman (Will Smith) struggles to carve out a new path in life for himself and his son (Jaden Smith).

This movie is "inspired by" a true story. I don't know exactly what is meant by the term "inspired by." I think it's a little less accurate than "based upon" but somewhat more credible than "we just made this up."
No matter, this is a terrific "man overcoming great odds" story in the tradition of Rudy and Tucker. Will Smith's performance is inspiring, and his son Jaden is good enough that you'd believe he could have earned the role even if his daddy weren't Will Smith. Happyness is like a modern-day Capra film with very little of the corny melodrama but every bit of the charm and hope. Plus, it really helps you put life in perspective if, for example, on the way home from seeing this movie you have to change a flat tire lying in a snowbank in sub-freezing weather because you hit a pothole.
Frackin' frost-wedging!!

My current show recommendation is:
PHAMALy's Our Town at the Aurora Fox Theatre

Monday, January 15, 2007

Hungry Like the Wolf, 1/15

I met up with my ex-girlfriend, Robin, and her son, Cougar, for lunch the other day at a place that I found on 5280 Magazine's On-line Restaurant Guide: Brickyard BBQ.
Robin (being one of my few exes who wasn't a vegetarian) and I thoroughly enjoyed it and one-year-old Cougar loved the pickles. The price is right and this is some of the best BBQ I've had in a long time.
I would definitely recommend the Brickyard to any of you other carnivores out there as being cheap but savory. (Ironically, "cheap and savory" was a pet name for another of my exes. That and "succubus from hell.")

Oh, and don't forget about Our Town.

The Better To See You With, My Dear 1/15

I'm sorry that I've been a bit behind in my updates, but I got stuck in a chimney this week. (Don't ask.)
I also haven't seen many movies this week, but here's what I did see:

It Runs In the Family (2003)

The plot: Three generations of Grombergs (played, in part, by three generations of Douglases) deal with love, loss, and family in New York City.

After Kirk Douglas's stroke in 1995, I expect that both father and son (Michael) thought that if they were going to make a movie together, it had better be soon. (Thankfully, the cleft-chinned nonagenarian is still going strong.)
Though a something of a family "vanity" project (Michael's son Cameron is also in the cast), this is still a pretty good movie. Not everything really wraps up at the end, but sometimes we as American audiences are a bit spoiled when it comes to having our stories tied up with neat little bows. Life is ongoing, and maybe that's the point of this movie. You take what life gives you and you keep moving on.
For Broadway buffs, modern Great White Way icons Bernadette Peters, Annie Golden, and Audra McDonald are all featured in this film.
I liked it well enough, which isn't exactly a ringing endorsement, but I definitely wouldn't call it a pan, either. This could have been just so much fluff, but it's not.

REMINDER: PHAMALy's Our Town is playing at the Aurora Fox Theater this month. It's definitely worth seeing. Don't miss it.

Tuesday, January 9, 2007

The Better To Hear You With, My Dear 1/9

Music for this week:

Piano Man - Billy Joel
The sophomore effort from the amazing Mr. Joel established the young songwriter as one of the more prolific musical storytellers of the seventies. There are lots of recognizable favorites here: "Piano Man", "The Ballad of Billy the Kid", "Captain Jack", and more. Extensive use of the steel guitar is a bit disconcerting at times, but thankfully, Billy didn't go too far down that road.

December Underground - AFI
Let me start by saying that I did enjoy this album. However it feels more like a compilation album of many different bands than a cohesive, singular effort. With songs ranging from screeching speed metal to Green Day, Killers, Depeche Mode, Cure and New Order clones, AFI (A Fire Inside) is all over the musical map. Strongest on "Prelude 12/21" and "Summer Shudder" this is a talented band that seeems to be having an identity crisis.

Underage Thinking - Teddy Geiger
I heard a radio DJ refer to Teddy Geiger as being "John Mayer-esque," and, as far as I'm concerned, that comparison pays a very high compliment to Mayer. I really enjoyed this album. Geiger's influences (Hornsby, Waits, Joel, Simon) are apparent, but the sound is all his own. Part jazz, part blues, part pop, this album is loaded with noteworthy tunes, not the least of which is "For You I Will (Confidence)" which actually inspired the Wolf toward two acts of uncharacteristic romantic boldness. (The romantic part, not the bold part.)

Visit to a small town

As many of you may know PHAMALy will be presenting its first non-musical production, Our Town, opening this Friday at the Aurora Fox Theatre.
Given my propensity for walking softly (sometimes with big stick, sometimes without) and my fondness for wearing black, I have been able to sneak backstage and witness a few rehearsals first-hand. (Restraining orders be damned.)
Looks good. Leonard Barrett brings his familiar, commanding presence to the role of the Stage Manager, but the true highlight of this show is the sublime performance of Regan Linton as the iconic Emily Webb. This is not in taking away from the ensemble's ability to bring the guileless world of Grover's Corners brilliantly to life in PHAMALy's inimitable way under the "Starsky and Hutch" direction of Steve Wilson and Nick Sugar.
This is my first theatre recommendation of 2007, my red-hooded cherubs. I know you will not be disappointed. Get your tickets soon.

Monday, January 8, 2007

The Last Book I Read, 1/8

Inkheart by Cornelia Funke

This book was recommended to me by the lovely and dear, Debbie Swartz (who now lives in Hawaii and probably doesn't even know about this blog, but props to you anyway, Honeybee). German author Cornelia Funke, weaves a thoroughly intriguing tale for lovers of books. Without giving too much of the story away, imagine the wonder and consequences of being able to literally bring a book to life. This book is clever, touching, and engaging. Best book I ever read? No. Not even close. But a lot of fun, nonetheless. If you like the Harry Potter books, you will probably like this one. There's one sequel in print - Inkspell (I haven't read it) - and another in the works. According to IMDb, it's going to be made into a thoroughly miscast movie. (Okay IMDb didn't say it was miscast; that's what I'm saying.) Read the book first. Seriously.

Tuesday, January 2, 2007

The Better to See You With, My Dear 1/2

This week's movies piglets:

The Terror (1963)

The plot: A lost soldier from Napoleon's army (Jack Nicholson) follows a mysterious woman to the dark castle of a morose baron (Boris Karloff) who bears a dark secret.

As the story goes, master of low-budget film Roger Corman had just finished filming a re-make of The Raven with Karloff, and, always a penny-pincher, he filmed this second film on the same set -- even as it was being torn down around them. The sets are impressive, and if I'd paid to have them built, I'd probably want to film a couple movies on them before tearing them down, too. The score is creepy, but a bit heavy-handed (even inappropriate) at times. Nicholson is miscast, but overcomes it with a fierce commitment to the role. (Good ol' Jack. . . er, young Jack.) Suspenseful and eerie, this movie is visually quite stunning. Unfortunately there are some wild and oh-so-convenient plot twists toward the end, and a full-on WTF? ending.
For Nicholson fans and Karloff fans and for film buffs interested in watching these two screen legends together -- one at the beginning of his career and the other one very near the end of his.

Barabbas (1962)

The plot: Barabbas (Anthony Quinn), the criminal released so that Jesus could be crucified, spends the rest of his life haunted by his fate in this fictionalized biography.

Hollywood went crazy for biblical epics in the late 50's and early 60's. They were picturesque costumed melodramas with thunderous scores and pious protagonists.
Barabbas has all of the costumes and sets with very little of the melodrama and preachiness. Quinn is brilliant as the confirmed non-believer wrestling with his demons. Barabbas's story is not a happy one, but it definitely is an interesting one, and there are some great scenes of the gladiator battles in the Roman Coliseum.

The Matador (2006)

The plot: Struggling businessman Danny (Greg Kinnear) meets burnt-out hitman Julian (Pierce Brosnan) in a hotel bar in Mexico. Both men's lives are forever changed.

I'm a big Pierce Brosnan fan, and I've come to appreciate his work not only as an actor but as a producer as well. Mr. Brosnan has proven quite adept at surrounding himself with the proper cast and crew needed to put together a very watch-able film. The Matador is not an exception to this rule, but it is a somewhat lesser film when compared to other recent projects like Evelyn, After the Sunset and Laws of Attraction. Still, it's a fun film to watch, and Brosnan's Julian is cool, vulnerable, focused, and scattered all at once. Greg Kinnear is also quite good as Danny, but his character could have done with a bit more development. (Not Kinnear's fault, though, as I see it.) I wish that the film had been a little longer (it's only 90 minutes!) to flesh out the story a little more, but, for me, it's right up there with Layer Cake and Sexy Beast in the genre of "criminal cool."

Forbidden Zone (1980)

The plot: (from IMDb) A mysterious door in the basement of the Hercules house leads to the Sixth Dimension by way of a gigantic set of intestine. When Frenchy slips through the door, King Fausto {(Herve Villechaize)} falls in love with her. The jealous Queen Doris takes Frenchy prisoner, and it is up to the Hercules family and friend Squeezit Henderson to rescue her.

Before Danny Elfman became the master of scores for superhero movies (Batman, Spiderman, etc.) he was the front man and creative force behind 80's ska/new-wave group, Oingo Boingo. Before that, he was a founding member of a performance art troupe called The Mystic Nights of the Oingo Boingo. Forbidden Zone is Richard Elfman's (Danny's brother) effort to capture the "magic" of the Mystic Nights on-screen.
I do not know how to describe this film. It's weird, but it's not just weird. It's weirder than Shock Treatment. It's weirder than 200 Motels. It's weirder than Head.
But I kinda liked it.

Dreamgirls (2006)

The plot: A black 60's girl group (very much like the Supremes) rises to superstardom with plenty of heartache and sacrifice along the way in the movie adaptation of the hit Broadway musical.

Wow. I knew that Eddie Murphy would be good. I've felt that he's been a bit under-rated for a while. I knew that Jamie Foxx would be good. I've become a fan of his work. I was reticent about Jennifer Hudson and Beyonce Knowles. Can they sing? Yes, of course they can. Did I think that these two young women would put forward such performances on the screen that they could actually bring a mean ol' varmint to tears? No. No, I didn't. What a surprise.

One last thought:
When you applaud a live performance, you are sending a message to the performer: "I enjoyed your work! I was impressed! You moved me!"
When you applaud in a movie theater, the message you're sending is: "Look at me! Look at me! I'm a bigger fan of this movie than the rest of you!"
But that's just my opinion.

Real final thought: If you're thinking of text messaging during a movie, look behind you first. If I'm sitting anywhere behind you . . . you're going to want to move.

Monday, January 1, 2007

The Better to Hear You With, My Dear 1/1

Hello, gang. Welcome to 2007. I think it's going to be a good one.

Here's some of the music that I've been listening to during the past week:

Smile, It Confuses People - Sandi Thom

When I first heard the song, "I Wish I Was a Punk Rocker," I was sure that I wasn't going to like it. The pretentious a capella opening and the hackneyed, nostalgic-waxing lyrics are just the sort of thing to get me to change the station. However, I didn't change the station, and I listened out of curiosity to see just where this young lady, Sandi Thom, was planning to take us. Lyrically, she didn't go much further, but her total commitment, vocally, to her metaphor, and the introduction of the drums -- those big, Scottish drums -- as a further punctuation of her gradually increasing paroxysm of melody, absolutely sold me. "Punk Rocker" became for me one of those songs that, if it were playing on the radio, I would sit and leave my car running after I'd reached my destination, so as not to miss the little Scottish lass's full musical ascent.
The rest of the album retains the percussive element of "Punk Rocker," while giving us a better sample of Ms. Thom's vocal and songwriting ability. I like it. It's a welcome addition to my collection.

Baker Street - Original Broadway Cast Recording

Reasonably clever. Moderately tedious. From a purist standpoint, too much has to be changed about Sherlock Holmes to enable a musical comedy about Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's famous detective to work. (Back in 1965 when it ran on Broadway, critics were divided about whether or not it did.) Inga Swenson is very capable, though, and definitely earned her Tony nomination. Perhaps the cast recording does not do justice to the fully-staged version, but I think there's a reason why this show is not oft-produced.

Jersey Boys - Original Broadway Cast Recording

I defy you not to bob your head or tap your feet along to this music of this stage tale of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons: "Sherry", "Big Girls Don't Cry", "Walk Like a Man", and more.
The cast does a remarkable imitation of the classic pop quartet, but I find myself asking the same question I asked about the cast recording of Twyla Tharp's Billy Joel musical, Movin' Out: why not just get a greatest hits album of the original artist?
Still, this is a fun album, but at the same time, I'm glad I got it cheap, so I can go pick up a Four Seasons "best of" album as well.